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Biodegradable plastic promises a plastic that breaks down into natural components when it’s no longer wanted for its original purpose. The idea of a plastic that literally disappears once in the ocean, littered on land or in landfill is tantalising — but also (at this stage) a pipe dream.

Each year, the Ocean Conservancy organises the International Coastal Cleanup, a global effort to rid the world’s beaches and waterways of trash. In 2019, for the first time in the NGO’s history, food wrappers overtook cigarette butts as the most collected item from the annual cleanup, a sign of how huge the single-use packaging problem has become.

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